Special Needs Children Failed By The System!  

Friday, 23 January 2009

Here is an interesting article that was posted on the Telegraph web-site last November By Julie Henry, the education correspondent for the Sunday telegraph.

Special needs children failed by the system

I have just received a call from the worried grandfather of an autistic boy whose parents are being forced down the route of a special educational needs tribunal in a bid to secure the right school for him.
The boy had, up until now, received one-to-one support in his mainstream school. He is at the high achieving end of the autism spectrum and seems to have a special aptitude for maths.
Because of cut backs however, that support has been withdrawn, making it very difficult for him to cope in a run-of-the-mill school. Yet the special school that the council is proposing for him is totally unsuitable. Children there have a range of profound needs and what they are taught has only a passing resemblance to the national curriculum.
The boy's parents are convinced their child would go backwards in such a school and they are probably right. The grandfather is paying for legal representation, which is increasingly vital if families are to have any chance of success at a special needs tribunal.
It is a heartbreaking case, highlighting many of the frustrations felt by thousands of parents with special needs children.
Inclusion in mainstream schools, while a laudable aim, has been seriously underfunded, leaving many children feeling lost and isolated. Special needs schools have been closed, with the loss of thousands of places. In some areas special needs provision has been merged, bringing together children with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities, making it more difficult for teachers to deliver lessons that meet children's needs.
The human cost is evident. Parents worried sick by the prospect of a child regressing after so much hard-won progress has been made and a grandfather spending his life savings trying to ensure that does not happen.

To see the article itself and a response it received from a reader, click on


This is a direct example of how the system is getting it so very wrong…again!

No-one is considering the child or their families when they make the decisions with regards to special schools.

This story is only too familiar to me.

My son Deion is 11, and he has done very well in a mainstream primary school. Mostly due to the fact that is an excellent school and the teachers and staff go that extra mile for all their pupils. Deion is a child with very obvious difficulties. He is a wheelchair user, triplegic, has little trunk control and is incontinent. Yet it was still a struggle to get him the (very obvious) support he needed.

Now we are going through the secondary transfer process and are embroiled in an even bigger fight.

Inclusion may be the 'catch word' for education at the moment, but unfortunately the concept has not filtered down to the people designing our ‘mainstream, special needs inclusive schools.’ The toilets are inadequate, the classroom sizes, though big enough have not allowed the right access, the lifts are small and the corridors too narrow in most cases.

It is going to involve a lot of work to make it possible for children like Deion to attend.

And as the response above states, it is far too much to expect a teacher to take on the role of special needs teacher on top of already teaching their oversized classes. But at the same time, this should not be the parents concern, parents cannot be expected to allow the system to just ‘dump’ their kids in a ‘special’ school’ simply because they have a child with a 'special needs' label.

And that’s one of the things that is failing. The term ‘special needs’ to someone in the education department just means ‘disability’ it seems to be a blanket term for everything ranging from mild autism to severe cerebral palsy, and everything in between. They just do not seem interested in a child’s particular needs. To the family involved, special needs is a very personal term. Personal to the individual child.

Stop trying to lump all our children together as if one term fits all…we’re sick of it!

And sadly, what it all boils down to is money, the education department want to find the cheapest way possible to school our kids, but still be seen to be doing the right thing.

Well they can’t have it both ways!

What is needed is more money; but first, it’s the attitude that needs to change. Then the basics need to be taken care of with regards to suitable access and toileting facilities. Then there need to be key workers, one to one care enabling children with special needs to go into mainstream schools with the proper support.

And although it is true that there are parents who will manipulate the system, for reasons only they know, maybe it is for significance or to lessen their own responsibilities. But what I do know is, children and families who really need the support cannot be punished because of it.

Yet, all that appears to be happening, is education making cuts where the money is most desperately needed.

Regardless of disability or special needs, our children are this country’s future. Education needs to top trying to make out that disability or special needs are a burden and start looking at individual children, realise that they are productive and valuable members of society and give them all the education they have a right to.

Yes, I understand that the money has to come from somewhere, but investment in the future, is surely the way to go. And that means investing in our children…all of them.

And as much as I don’t wish to tell the government to do their job (well…!!!) perhaps the £10 million pounds recently allocated to training SENCO’S (special educational needs co-coordinators) to be teachers as this article from the guardian states, could be put to better use within the system!


I'm just one parent, but I know I am not alone in the way I think.

Sal xxx

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